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Is your dog depressed?

Dogs are capable of a much broader spectrum of feelings than most owners realize – and this may include a canine type of depression. Find out how to keep your dog emotionally and mentally stable and comfortable if you suspect he or she is depressed.

It may come as a surprise to learn that dogs may suffer from depression – and that it may be more prevalent during the long, dark winter months.

What causes a dog to become depressed?

Changes in routine, setting, social group, or as a result of persistent stress or anxiety arising from fears and phobias or lifestyle may all have an effect on a dog's emotional state. Some of these can trigger what seems to be a canine version of depression, but many owners are unaware of the shift in their dog's attitude – or that they can do some very easy things to improve their dog's life and put an end to "dog depression."

Phobias and fears

Chihuahua looking anxiousIs your dog fearful of children, men, moving vehicles or even butterflies and flickering shadows?

What appears to be dog sadness is often a sign of a deeper behavioral problem. A dog suffering from noise phobias or separation anxiety, for example, may be in a constant state of stress or anxiety, waiting for the next bang or the next time they are left home alone, even though they are not displaying any extreme or apparent signs of fear. 

Social group changes

Dogs are an excellent match for our lives because they form such close bonds with us. Most dogs form close bonds with their entire presumed "family," and shifts in this social dynamic can have a significant impact on dogs.

Divorce, children leaving home, or even a shift in working habits can all cause dynamic relational changes in the home. Dogs cannot understand where their mate or loved one has gone, and we can't describe it to them either.

However, sadness isn't the only thing that can affect a dog's mood. When you unexpectedly become less accessible to your dog, such as when you return to work after a break or start a new career, it can be devastating. They are completely reliant on you for business, protection, and affection, and they are acutely aware of your growing absence.

Environmental changes

Most dogs like routine and are at their happiest when they are familiar with and confident in their surroundings. House transfers, construction projects, or major home reorganizations may make your dog feel anxious, and you can see changes in their attitude or behavior as they try to process the changes and reclaim their routine and sense of security. Give them a safe, familiar and reassuring space with the Hooded Bed, a sheltered space to snuggle up in.

Lack of mental and physical stimulation

It's easy to focus on dogs only during the few hours we exercise them each day, but have you considered what their needs are during the time that we are out socializing or working? This could mean that for up to 12 hours of waking time daily, our dear dogs have nothing to do!

This can cause extreme boredom in dogs (especially working breeds) which thrive on activity. This could lead to destruction of furniture and a variety of behavioral issues including depression.

Keep your dog independently engaged with puzzle toys like the Rainbow Snuffle Blanket or the Tumble Egg Treat Dispenser while you're away. Dogs are happiest when they have a mission to complete!  

What should I look out for?

Dogs can't express their sadness, write heartfelt poems, or paint angsty paintings: So, how do we know what they're thinking and feeling? Dogs communicate with humans by a combination of body language and everyday routines. The signs of depression in dogs may be subtle.

Activity Levels Have Changed

A disinterested dog is the polar opposite of a playful dog. It watches you throw the ball but doesn't try to chase it. If this describes your four-legged friend, something is wrong, and you should consult a veterinarian.

Change in reaction

There's nothing quite like a wet, waggy welcome home to raise the spirits. So, if your pet no longer gets up to greet you and instead lifts a mournful brow, pay attention.

Changes in Appetite

Depressed dogs also refuse to feed. They typically miss meals or refuse to eat expensive treats. Alternatively, certain dogs, like humans, seek solace in food, so keep an eye out for the dog who finds solace at the bottom of a food bowl.

Excessive licking (Self-harm)

Close up of dog licking his paw

When dogs are agitated, they can become obsessive lickers, causing sores or skin infections. The act of licking triggers the release of natural endorphins, which helps to improve their mood. As a result, repetitive licking can mean that a dog is depressed.

Have you noticed how often the word ‘change' appears?

Any deviation from the standard, particularly if it lasts more than a few days, should be investigated. However, never believe your dog is unhappy without first consulting a veterinarian.

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